By PA Sport
Last Updated: 14/09/18 11:41pm
Tom Johnstone claimed his third hat-trick of the season as Wakefield moved back up to fifth in the Betfred Super League table with a 34-22 victory over Catalans Dragons.
Johnstone draws level with St Helens’ Ben Barba on 24 at the top of the league’s try-scoring list after his latest performance.
Trinity climb above faltering Huddersfield on game points difference and, with two matches remaining, have every chance of emulating last year’s finish.
Ladbrokes Challenge Cup winners Catalans have now lost six successive Super League games either side of their Wembley triumph.
However, an upturn in fortunes and victory at sliding Hull next week could yet see them still finish seventh – a far cry from 2017 when they were scrapping for their top-flight lives.
The four play-off candidates have long been settled but, after beating Huddersfield and giving a impressive account of themselves in defeat at Wigan, Wakefield continued their trademark expansive style of rugby to build an almost conclusive 18-point half-time advantage with six tries in the opening stanza.
Castleford Tigers vs Wakefield Trinity
September 21, 2018, 7:30pm
Kyle Wood, returning from injury to make his 100th appearance for the West Yorkshire team, made the first significant break with Ryan Hampshire and Scott Grix swapping passes down centre field before Matty Ashurst completed a spectacular long-range opening score.
Hampshire landed the first of three goals for the home side but Benjamin Jullien hit back with a quickfire reply for Catalans, arcing back through a large hole in the Trinity line and then watching Josh Drinkwater level the scores with a simple conversion.
Wakefield were back in front midway through the half as Johnstone swept up a loose Joe Arundel offload near the corner flag and cut inside to dart over and extend an impressive run which has seen the lively winger score at least once in 12 of the last 14 games.
Hampshire missed the conversion but quickly made amends by breaking from halfway and turning Dragons’ full back Tony Gigot inside out before touching between the posts.
The scrum-half this time added the goal to give Trinity a 16-6 lead.
Again Catalans responded well to conceding two tries in as many minutes – winger Iain Thornley being put clear by an astute cut-out pass from Drinkwater, who added his 50th league goal of the season to cut the deficit to just four points.
A Dragons’ knock-on deep inside their own half gave Trinity the next chance to reassert their authority and an enormous Jacob Miller pass was scooped up on the run by a rampant Johnstone, who sped over for his second try of the evening.
Hampshire almost added the extras but his kick struck the upright and bounced out – before Randell forced his way over under the sticks and Reece Lyne added a third score in barely seven minutes out wide. Hampshire added the first of the two conversions, to send Trinity in at half-time leading 30-12.
Johnstone completed his hat-trick when he rose highest to collect and dot down, before Catalans – missing Samisoni Langi, Julian Bousquet, Michael McIlorum and Remi Casty from the side which pushed table-topping St Helens so close six days earlier – responded with a David Mead try, improved by Drinkwater.
Craig Huby was sin-binned after a huge brawl erupted with 14 minutes remaining and Brayden Wiliame immediately sliced through the 12-man Trinity defence to close the gap to 12 points.
Less than three minutes from time, another fracas broke out – resulting in Miller and former Wakefield man Mickael Simon both being sent off.